It’s perhaps unsurprising that Erin Aniker’s work takes a feminist stance. “My mum was always going to marches for Turkish and Kurdish women’s rights,” she says, “she marched with IMECE Women’s centre in Dalston. There would always be some kind of protest boards lying around at home and she used to take me and my brothers on the marches since we were babies, and strap the protest banners to our buggy”.
Erin is recalling how these early experiences, which normalised protest – and art – in her home, translated into her practice as an illustrator. Her work features women in bright colour palettes, with beatific smiles, stern frowns; with an overarching theme of togetherness, the women are often depicted in clusters, filling our eye-line with squiggly but clean outlines of powerful women. Her illustrations picture women raising their mehndi-decorated hands together in unison; brains split, with the minutiae of life’s worries spilling out of them, or women crying soft tears with the pain of motherhood, alongside a group of other women mirroring the same emotions behind her.
For the 25-year-old Londoner, it’s the need to express her own experiences of different communities, bolstered by mixed parentage (her mum is Turkish and dad is English), that drives her work.
“I grew up at home where my dad was a language teacher (he speaks Spanish, French, German, English and Turkish) so I grew up with films, books, magazines, TV and radio shows in lots of different languages” she says. “We always had different family and friends from all over the world staying and living with us” she continues. “ Albeit subtle, illustration can be used as a political tool, as well as a way of strengthening communities and promoting inclusion.
Erin lists her favourite illustrators as Gizem Vural, Laura Breiling, Manjit Thapp, Catherine M.A. and Jess Nash, whilst her inspirations come mainly from “Islamic textile, in particular Turkish textiles and ceramics. There is a lot of cobalt blue used in Turkish textiles and ceramics and I find it a really calming colour. I end up using a lot of blues and purples and have to stop myself from using it all the time”.
It’s in the peaceful, solitary moments of Adobe Illustrator that Erin feels most connected with women and their stories. Her work is quietly radical, made up of a utopian, intersectional, feminist vision – where women of colour, non-binary women, single mums and marginalised communities come together to make themselves present when they’re needed. They’re all there, faded but represented, in the background – letting us know that we’re not alone. Her mum would be proud.